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Engineering psychology: Cooperation between University of Lübeck and Stadtverkehr Lübeck

How will our cities look like in the future? Can we further reduce emissions by switching to electric transportation, especially when it comes to public transportation? But what if the battery power runs out? How can drivers be sure they can cover their route with the energy they have left?

On February 1st, 2018, Prof. Dr. Thomas Franke, professor of engineering psychology at the Institute for Multimedia and Interactive Systems at the University of Lübeck, launched the NuR.E project on user centered range management for electric busses. Stadtverkehr Lübeck could be won as project partner. The local public transport company operates two electric busses since last June.

Switching to electric vehicles for public transportation is a vital contribution to sustainability and climate protection in Schleswig-Holstein. However, the problem of limited range is one of the major acceptance issues. Drivers are concerned about the actual usable range in everyday operations. In addition, lack of clear feedback about energy efficient driving makes it very difficult to improve upon the available range with electric vehicles.

In cooperation with Jens Lottmann, Stadtverkehr Lübeck's project leader for e-mobility, Prof. Franke presented the challenges and goals of the project. „A substantial share of the theoretically available range resources of electric vehicles is lost because of different psychological factors.”, states Prof. Thomas Franke. „Existing designs make it unnecessarily difficult for users to safely estimate their available range and to increase it by more energy efficient driving.”

NuR.E addresses these issues. Working together with drivers and dispatchers, the team around Prof. Thomas Franke will develop visualization concepts to optimally support drivers in range estimation and energy efficient driving. For example, the system will show the available range, including the safety buffer, directly in relation to the remaining travel distance, thus removing the burden of drivers to continuously estimate these distances. It will also provide useful feedback to improve energy efficient driving. The prototypes will be tested in the field.

„We were very pleased about the request of the researchers from the University of Lübeck“, says Bernd Raasch, operations manager at Stadtverkehr Lübeck. „The results we will achieve together will have a major value for us and other transport companies operating electric vehicles“, Jens Lottmann added.
Prof. Franke and his team are looking forward to discussing the project with other interested parties in order to adapt and extend the range management concept to other use cases.

The Gesellschaft für Energie und Klimaschutz Schleswig-Holstein (EKSH, a non-profit-making limited liability company for energy and climate protection Schleswig-Holstein) supports the NuR.E project with funds totaling 150.000€ over the course of two years. Their university-economy-transfer supports projects addressing issues like energy production, energy efficiency, or energy consumption in Schleswig-Holstein.